Chennai, May 13 : Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's
close aide V K Sasikala on Monday did not appear via video conferencing
before the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) in connection
with a Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) case.
Since the necessary papers did not reach her on time, she was now asked
to appear before the ACMM on May 28 from Parapanna Agrahara prison in
Bengaluru where she has been lodged after her conviction in the DA case.
However, Sasikala's relative V Bhaskaran, who was also cited as the accused
in the case, appeared before the Court today.
It may be recalled that on a petition filed by her, the Madras High
Court had on Thursday last permitted her to be questioned through
video-conferencing, while setting aside the April 29 order of ACMM
directing the Superintendent of the Central Prison in Bengaluru to
Sasikala before the court on May 13 for questioning in FERA case.
Setting aside the order, Mr Justice N Anand Venkatesh accepted a plea
made by G Hema, Special Public Prosecutor for Enforcement Directorate,
that the answers recorded by the Magistrate might be sent to the prison
for obtaining her signatures.
Sasikala's counsel argued that she was facing four economic offence cases
registered by the ED between 1996 and 2001. One of those cases booked
in 1998 was related to purchase of equipments from a foreign supplier for
the now-defunct JJ TV, allegedly without RBI's approval. The ED had alleged that as chairperson-cum-director of JJTV Private Limited between 1991 and 1996, Sasikala authorised the company’s Managing Director Bhaskaran to negotiate and enter into a contract with any foreign supplier of a transponder facility for launching Tamil satellite channel JJ TV.
In pursuit of this, payments were made to firms in United States and
Singapore dollars for hiring transponders and uplinking facilities for the
JJ TV without the permission of the RBI. On May 4, 2017, the ACMM passed an order permitting the accused to
appear through video-conferencing for framing of charges and also for
questioning on the basis of the chief examination of four prosecution
She had appeared through video-conferencing on June 21, 2017, when
she was questioned and charges were framed against her. Subsequently charges were framed against her in two other cases on January 28 this year via video-conferencing from Bengaluru. However, a new presiding officer who took charge of the ACMM court recently, found that the answers recorded by the court during the questioning on June 21, 2017, had not been countersigned by the accused just because the entire proceedings took place through video-conferencing. He felt that it was not proper to let the answers remain on paper without her signatures.
Hence he ordered that Sasikala should be produced in person on May 13 for
examination under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Assailing his order, the accused said she was willing to given an undertaking
that she would not plead any prejudice to have been caused to her on account
of being questioned through video-conferencing.
Stating that she was suffering from various ailments including back pain, she
said her health would not pemit her to travel from Bengaluru to Chennai and
back in a police vehicle.
She also submitted that much time could be saved and would also spare the
public exchequer of unnecessary expenditure if she was allowed to appear
through video conferencing.